Kids spend week volunteering to help others

Helping people is nothing new to Ashley Heida and Anna Niessen.

The 18 fourth- and fifth-graders made 14 blankets for the Alexandra House and 15 spool hats for infants for New Life Family Services. Submitted photo
The 18 fourth- and fifth-graders made 14 blankets for the Alexandra House and 15 spool hats for infants for New Life Family Services. Submitted photo

They have gone on a mission trip to Duluth and spent a day serving people in St. Paul on various tasks like cleaning the basement of a church, for example.

The soon to be 10th-grade students at Andover High School (Ashley) and Legacy Christian Academy (Anna) recently showed 18 fourth- and fifth-graders that there are many things people can do to help others.

The one-week late June summer camp at Constance Free Church in Andover was called Breakthrough 45. “Breakthrough” was the chosen word to show kids that they can make a difference. The number 45 was to display that this initiative was meant for those entering fourth or fifth grade.

Volunteers made 14 blankets for Alexandra House, which assists women and children who were in abusive homes. Fifteen spool hats for newborns were made for New Life Family Services, which provides numerous services such as a clothing closet for new mothers and free pregnancy tests for women.

They shopped at Cub Foods to get supplies for the North Anoka County Emergency (NACE) Food Shelf and ended up donating 65 pounds of food.

They prepped two meals that included pizza and garlic bread, tacos and fruit kabobs for Family Promise of Anoka County, which assists the homeless.

On the final day, they hosted a water carnival for the children of Kinship of Greater Minneapolis. This organization provides one-on-one mentoring for children ages five to 15 who are “in need of additional support to realize their God-given potential through adult friendships,” according to its website.

The group met every morning from Monday through Friday. One of the first orders of business was to learn about the people they were helping. Trisha Perez from Family Promise spoke Monday, Karen Williams from Alexandra House spoke Tuesday, Amy Linder from New Life Family Services spoke Wednesday and Penny Kallas from Kinship spoke Thursday.

Heida and Niessen received a $1,000 grant to pay for the food and supplies from YouthWorks, which organized the Duluth mission trip they went on last year. It was at that point they heard about 10 $1,000 grants being distributed to youth who demonstrated that they could lead a camp of young kids to service the community.

“It was really fun to watch kids bond as a group and go out and serve,” Heida said.

The people Niessen talked to said the kids had a fun time. Personally, she enjoyed delivering items directly to the organizations because this gave them a chance to see where people are being helped.

“They were excited to know that kids would be getting the hats they made,” Linder said of the young volunteers. “They had a lot of excitement and energy.”

Cindy Jones, middle school ministries director for Constance Free Church, said Ashley and Anna spent an entire year planning for this week and invested many hours during their freshman year in high school.

“It was really great for Jill (Discher) and I to see their unique gifts and talents come out as they pulled the camp together,” Jones said. Discher is the director of children’s ministries at Constance Free Church.

“Their strong faith and their compassion for those in need fueled their efforts,” she said. “They took on a whole extra layer of leadership as they not only organized service projects, but they trained and encouraged younger students to serve.”

Anna and Ashley’s efforts to get these young kids involved was not limited to this summer camp. Every Sunday since the middle of this past winter, they have led a program called Fishers of Faith for the fourth- and fifth-graders. Kids learn about prayer, the Bible and ways they can become leaders of their peers.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]